A court in the Chinese capital has sentenced U.S.-based dissident Yang Jianli to five years' imprisonment for illegally entering the country and spying, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

The five-year jail term was handed down by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court Thursday, and probably included the two years Yang has already spent in detention, his lawyer Mo Shaoping said.

"He did not plead guilty. He definitely didn't plead guilty," Mo told RFA's Mandarin service. "According to Chinese law this was a verbal sentence. We won't decide whether he's going to appeal or not until he's received the written sentence in the next five days and we've had a meeting."

Yang, a scholar and a permanent U.S. resident, was detained in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on April 26 last year. He was returning to China to investigate workers' protests that had erupted in the northeastern part of the country.

Yang's wife, U.S. citizen Christine Fu Xiang, was detained for two days upon arriving in China last May as she tried to visit her husband; she was subsequently expelled from the country.

In the U.S. when the sentence was handed down, Fu said: "We will continue to call on the Chinese government to release my husband through every possible channel, to try to exert a little pressure on them to release him very soon."

Yang will have 10 days from the date of the sentence to decide whether or not to appeal the verdict, which included allegations of spying for Taiwan.

China's Xinhua news agency reported Thursday that Yang was found to have been directed by "a Taiwan spy organization" in 1991 in San Francisco "to collect confidential papers of the Chinese government" and later established his own "spy agency" with funds from Taiwan.

Fu has lobbied the White House, the U.S. Congress, and the State Department to help win her husband's release. She hopes Yang will be deported, as in the case of U.S.-based Chinese sociologist Gao Zhan, who was deported in 2001 after a Chinese court convicted her of spying for rival Taiwan.

Yang lived in the United States after China blacklisted him for participating in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. By Chinese law, a Beijing court should have handed down a verdict or set him free within two and a half months of the closed-door, one-day trial.#####


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.